I returned to reading The Annotated Hobbit after a two week hiatus, said hiatus caused by notes and illustration captions found in the Introduction and annotations in the first five chapters. As I noted last week in a Tolkien memorial post, I’ve since started reading and completed several nonfiction titles, some of which actually grew out of The Annotated Hobbit annotations.
The first footnote of Chapter 6 delved into a connection between Tolkien’s us of “Misty Mountains” to a poem from the Old Norse Elder Edda. A few pages later, in the seventh footnote, I learned the chapter name, “Out of the frying-pan into the fire,” is a traditional proverb which The Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs has examples of going back to the sixteenth century. But turning to the next page, I discovered the best, and ninth, footnote of the chapter, containing a reference to correspondence, in 1966, between Gene Wolfe and Tolkien on the use of the word warg.
Tolkien described his use of warg in a letter to Gene Wolfe of November 7, 1966: “It is an old word for wolf, which also had the sense of an outlaw or hunted criminal. This is the usual sense in surviving texts. I adopted the word, which had a good sound for the meaning, as a name for this particular brand of demonic wolf in the story.” Tolkien derived the word from Old English wearg-, Old High German warg-, Old Norse varg-r (also = “wolf,” especially of a legendary kind).
Footnote 9, Chapter 6 Out of the Frying-pan Into the Fire, The Annotated Hobbit
In July, the Tolkien Society of Kansas City started reading The Annotated Hobbit with the intention of finishing it in time for this year’s Hobbit Day (annually on September 22nd celebrating both Bilbo and Frodo’s birthdays). The introduction presented me with multiple sources but didn’t provide it’s own bibliography. I made my first inter-library loan request in months for four books, only two of which could be filled by my closest local library. I then re-requested the two from a different larger library. Meanwhile, I received the other two ILL books and two other books I put on hold that were already in the library system. Since Tolkien & The Silmarillion by Kilby was only eighty-nine pages long, I immediately began reading it on Monday and finished it on Tuesday.
Overall, I enjoyed the small memoir of Kilby‘s Summer of ’66 with Tolkien, but by far the most powerful portion was his Postscript, written soon after Tolkien’s death. I felt my chest tightening and my eyes welling up. And that’s when it struck me.
Today, September 2, 2021, is the 48th anniversary of the Passing of J.R.R. Tolkien. I read the Postscript again. I decided I must share at least part of it in the cyberspace aether. I added it as a comment to my final GoodReads status update. Then I decided I should post the Postscript here on my blog.
Two people I know in real life are traveling down under this spring, to New Zealand, not to attend WorldCon, home of the Hugo Awards ceremony, but just for vacations. Although, I wonder if their plans have changed since I last spoke or saw them over two months ago now. Much ado about something is occurring everywhere now, but don’t even compare it to 1918. Regardless, a trip to New Zealand would check off two items on my bucket list: 1) to see the Southern Hemisphere’s night sky (stars and constellations I cannot see from 39 degrees north latitude) and 2) to visit the closest thing to Middle-earth on this Earth.
Partial Synopsis: Contributors analyze Gollum’s character transformation, the psychological journey of Bilbo, the regime set up by Saruman at the end of Lord of the Rings and its parallels to fascism, the books’ narrative technique, and Tolkien’s rich use of myth and symbol.
I found most of the essays collected in A Tolkien Compass to be intriguing and thought provoking. At least three of them added twenty new books, journals and articles to my to-be-read queue. The notes alone on a couple of the essays were three or four pages in length and sent me down fantastic research rabbit holes. I can’t decide which essay is my absolute favorite, so I’ll list my top five here (in author alpha order):
Huttar, Charles A. “Hell and the City: Tolkien and the Traditions of Western Literature”
Miller, David M. “Narrative Pattern in The Fellowship of the Ring“
Rogers, Deborah C. “Everyclod an Everyhero: The Image of Man in Tolkien”
Scheps, Walter “The Fairy-tale Morality of The Lord of the Rings“
West, Richard C. “The Interlace Structure of The Lord of the Rings“
Honorable Mentions include Agnes Perkins’ “The Corruption of Power” and U. Milo Kaufmann’s “Aspects of the Paradisiacal in Tolkien’s Work”
A Tolkien Companion, originally published in 1975, amazed me with the depth of insight and scholarship gleaned from the then available works published by Tolkien and about Tolkien’s writing. I saw at least one reference to the manuscripts archived at Marquette University in Wisconsin. Yet, these essays still pre-date the publication of The Silmarillion and the volumes of The History of Middle-earth. Unlike Master of Middle-earth, however, I did not gain any new revelations about Tolkien’s Legendarium, but I did experience profound and thought provoking moments. If I had to choose my favorite essay from the collection, it would probably be Richard West’s “The Interlace Structure of The Lord of the Rings” because I had to restrain myself from recording the entire essay as an audio excerpt.
I recommend this to people interested in delving deeper into Tolkien’s writing.
The second week of November looked and felt more like the first week of January. My commute Tuesday morning (the day after Veterans’ Day) involved icy drizzle and in at least one hair-raising incident on an icy untreated bridge (Thanks, Kansas City, Missouri, for being consistent in your street maintenance over the last 25 years). At least the traction control works in my new van. By lunch time, the drizzle had converted to snow blown by a bitter cold north wind (see photo above taken right before I ventured across the circle drive for a cup of soup at the Mixx).
Last week I attended the monthly Hobbit Happy Hour of the Tolkien Society of Kansas City. We returned to City Barrell where our two teams were victorious in LotR trivia back in September. During one of my conversations with friends and new acquaintances, I learned that circulation of print editions was down at the Plaza Branch of KCPL. I am as much to blame as anyone else since I’ve almost completely switched to audiobooks and ebooks over the last decade. Anything I read in print is because it’s out of print and/or only available as a printed edition.
MiddleMoot 2019 (last month in Waterloo, Iowa), like most conferences, consists of multiples sessions competing for the same time slots. Like all good stories, plays and, in this case, moots, there is a beginning, a middle and an end where we all gather together. In between, decisions must be made.
Since I wanted to support my fellow Withywindle Smial presenters, Sessions 2 and 4 were already decided. Thus I need to decide between female grief as foresight or interruptions and musing for the first session. I went with the former for various reasons, but mostly because I’m not a writer of fiction (just a reader), my life is one long interruption and I was intrigue by the concept of female grief as foresight and subcreation, especially after reading about Aragorn’s mother, Gilraen. I created an audio recording of the session on my iPad, but Jude Bleile was so soft-spoken, even with a microphone, that I won’t share that recording here to avoid listener frustration.